This unspoilt northerly province is the spot to take your foot off the pedal and go slow, Friesian-style, amid raw coastal nature and a profusion of namesake black-and-white cows.
Frieslanders are a staunchly self-reliant bunch, with their own language proudly emblazoned on road signs. Here they didn't just have to build dykes to protect their land; they had to build the land as well. Their unique mudflats, laced into the Waddenzee (Wadden Sea), are on Unesco's world treasures list, and the slender islands across this body of water are the country's hottest summertime destination, with forest, dunes and beaches threaded with cycling paths.
Piercing the province's centre is its beguiling, canal-ringed capital Leeuwarden, a European City of Culture in 2018 with a dynamic vibe to match. Elsewhere, craggy fishing villages and port towns such as Hindeloopen and Harlingen charm with 16th-century architecture and a contagious, laid-back pace unchanged for centuries.